Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, CSSD, FAND, director of nutritioHeartn training and registered dietitian,offers ten tips to keep your heart healthy during Heart Health Month.

The connection between diet and heart health has been around long enough that most people know what makes a diet “heart-healthy.” Strategies such as watching your weight, keeping your total fats and saturated fats down, not being too heavy-handed with the saltshaker, or upping your soluble fiber intake – all have become well known dietary approaches to promote heart health.

All good advice, to be sure; after all, a high-fat diet can put weight on you, saturated fats can bump up your blood cholesterol levels, and too much salt can drive up blood pressure – all of which can increase your risk for heart disease.

The foundations of a heart-healthy diet are pretty simple – it’s what you already know as a healthy, well-balanced diet. The following are ten easy tips to maintain a healthy heart year round.

1. Eat more fruits, veggies, whole grains and beans, which deliver vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants.

2. Enjoy healthy low-fat proteins such as nonfat or low-fat dairy products, poultry breast, lean cuts of red meat, and plant proteins such as beans, lentils and tofu. These will help keep your total fat and saturated fat intake in check.

3. Keep your total fat intake low – ideally, you want to eat only the amount that you need to add flavor to foods.

4. When you do eat fats, you’ll want to focus on the healthy ones that are provided by foods like fish, nuts, avocado and olive oil; since they are rich sources of heart-healthy omega-3 fats. Seafood should be on your menu as often as possible.

5. Limit your added fats by trimming dressings, spreads, sauces and fried foods from your diet whenever you can.

6. Choose healthy carbohydrates, which include whole fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Steer clear of processed starchy foods, and instead fill your plate with foods rich in soluble fiber – beans, sweet potatoes, berries, plums, broccoli and carrots – that help to maintain healthy cholesterol levels.

7. If you are unable to include important ingredients, such as fruits, vegetables or fish, consider augmenting your diet with targeted supplements, multivitamins or omega-3 fish oils.

8. Lower your stress. If you think activities like yoga, meditation, and deep breathing aren’t for you, think again. Stress management is an important part of heart health and these stress-relieving activities can reduce your risk of heart disease.

9. Regular exercise of any kind not only helps reduce stress, but also improves blood flow to the heart.part1

10. Shed the extra pounds. A healthy weight lowers the risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and diabetes, and has an overall positive impact on total health.

“Eating a balanced diet that emphasizes plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables and low fat protein, coupled with exercise and stress reduction are all important in maintaining a healthy heart. Taken together, these healthy habits contribute to an overall sense of health and well-being, and allow you to develop a healthy lifestyle that is a win-win for your heart and whole body,” concluded Bowerman.

Susan Bowerman is director of nutrition training at Herbalife. Susan is a registered dietitian and a Board-certified specialist in sports dietetics. More useful nutrition advice can be found on her blog

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